I have always enjoyed Griffin Colapinto’s surfing style. He seems, to me, a sort of evolved Kolohe Andino. All the tricks, all the ability, but… that little something extra. A sprinkling of diving magic. Well, that little something extra has propelled the young San Clementine to the very top of the World Surf League championship tour rankings this 2022 season. The high point, an event win in El Salvador over perennial top fiver Filipe Toledo.
The proud surfing nation of Brazil and its most passionate fans very much disagreed with the judging and took their capoeira out on Colapinto, threatening to gather a mob on the sands of Saquarema in order to pelt the boy with stones.
Now, this is where my enjoyment of Colapinto’s surfing style transitioned to an enjoyment of his personhood. The current world number three might have run scared, claimed “transit visa” issues or an injury that only allows him to surf pumping Bali but he did not. He shrugged, hopped on a plane and landed in Brazil, ready to go.
The rage-filled horde failed to materialize but handsome Griffin wherein he was narrowly defeated by Brazilian Michael Rodrigues in the opening round and, seconds ago, had his steeled spine ripped right out in the elimination round by Peruvian journeyman Miguel Tudela. The heat got off to a fine start for the Lost team rider, Colapinto ducking into a racing barrel while Chris Cote spoke loud words, but that was mostly it and now he is finished.
Peruvians, man. First they invented surfing, now this.
Comment live, vital elimination round as Gabriel Medina faces world-title ending last-place finish, Oi Rio Pro, Brazil, “Lets see if you will cheat again. Shame on you!”
You would have have put good money on Gabriel Medina, even though history would tell you it was ill-advised.
No Griffin Colapinto being torn limb from limb on the Saquarema sand like warm bread.
Not a single furious fan in sight.
Just amiable, handsome people, cheering on their countrymen with joie de vivre, and soaking up a bevy of chunky lefts and rights.
It was a crowd typically overstated by the WSL broadcast team. Strider and Kaipo’s mock-ecstasy was in full effect.
So exciting, so much ENERGY.
They were so overwhelmed they were lost for words. By this point we understand that “lost for words” is a euphemism for “ran out of vocabulary”.
The partisan crowd were treated to a starting line-up of eleven Brazilians from a total of twenty-four surfers.
Surf statisticians can check for me, but I’m going to claim that’s the highest percentage of a single nationality ever to begin a WCT event.
Justly, given the results of the opening round.
Five of the seven heats containing a Brazilian surfer had a Brazilian victor. Gabriel Medina did not win his heat, but Yago Dora (as a replacement) did, as did wildcard Michael Rodrigues.
It was Brazilian conditions, chunky beachbreak that required dynamic two-turn combos and quick-twitch muscle fibres. They were waves we might have grumbled at in the past, but given what we’ve seen the past couple of events they seemed, frankly, rather exciting.
Surfers could go two directions, there were few lulls and the waves had some grunt. Split peaks suddenly seemed like a terribly fresh and exciting proposition!
Several surfers caught ten or more waves over the course of their heat, and that was a very welcome change, even if they weren’t perfect.
What they did offer were sections to bash and punt, and this was considerably better than watching surfers straightline long, crumbly sections at G-Land, or nurse knee-high slop in El Salvador.
Italo made the most of it in the opening heat of the day in a sparky performance reminiscent of his past self that elicited a large deposit from me. There was nothing too spectacular, but just…something. He is the quickest of twitchers, he’ll fit three turns where others manage two, and he’s very much due a win.
Zen-master Griffin Colapinto opened his heat like he was impervious to the online cacophony that has followed his El Salvador victory, not least from his own mother.
After opening with solid seven, he was comfortable for the majority of the heat, until Michael Rodrigues started spinning. The crispness of his rotations eventually edged the heat from Colapinto by just 0.06 points.
But for my money the most impressive air of the day went to Jack Robinson in the next heat for a huge straight air, grabbed frontside. By my estimation he was at least eight feet above the lip, and I wouldn’t have quibbled if the 8.17 had been a point higher.
It was another comfortable victory for Robinson, who looks more assured by the day.
I noted the intensity of the breathing exercises and stretching he did pre-heat. Questionable haircut aside, he and Julia must cut an imposing presence in the competitor’s area these days. And I mention her again because she seems very much part of his fortification.
Toledo did Toledo things in his opener. They were all very dynamic and impressive, of course, but I feel slightly beleaguered by the inevitability of his surfing this year and understand how the judges must feel.
He spoke of tiredness himself in his post-heat interview, saying he needed a break.
It made me reflect once again, as I often have, on the fact that it’s possible to kill everything you love. It’s cliched to say that you should turn your passion into your job, but it’s also terrible advice.
What is there that wouldn’t become a chore if you were forced to do it?
Rest up for Teahupo’o, Pip. That’s your Finals Day.
Yago Dora made it four Brazilian victories from the first five heats, edging out Kanoa, who did little wrong. Kolohe Andino was also in this heat, but I’m afraid his goose is well and truly cooked.
You’d have put good money on Gabriel Medina continuing the Brazilian blitzkrieg, even though history would tell you it was ill-advised. In no fewer than eight attempts, Medina has never made a final in Rio.
Improbable but no less true.
If he wants to subvert the course of this unlikely history he’ll need to do it via the elimination round. He could only manage a palty 6.40 heat total today. It was an admittedly wave-starved heat as the tide filled in, but Medina was well out of sorts.
Connor O’Leary took the victory, and if he keeps on winning heats eventually I’m going to have to watch him more closely and find it in my heart to write about him. But for now I’ll just say “on yersel, big man”, and that’ll have to do.
Another big man who continues to do unlikely things is Jackson Baker The Candlestick Maker. He advanced to the round of 16 today, even though less than a point separated him from Jordy Smith and Callum Robson.
Honestly, I took the opportunity during this heat to play a game called “statues” with my two boys. One of them pretends to sell me a statue (the other one), which I then pick up and place somewhere. To my great surprise and their great hilarity, every time I turn my back the statue appears to have moved to a new location.
The game was vindicated when no-one managed a double figure heat total, but well done, Jacko, nonetheless.
The final heat of the day was won by Miggy Pupo, the most heart-warming aspect of this being that Caio Ibelli lost.
A deep-rooted problem in the WSL was evidenced again today when Chris Cote revealed he was a “sherpa”, as he and Pete Mel referred to it, for some of the surfers. Cote had carried one of Kanoa’s boards to Brazil.
Cronyism? Nepotism? Some kind of ism.
A bit weird, at any rate.
Much like Kaipo’s adverts for tyres. As authoritative and well-researched as his surf punditry, he told us the tyres he was petting like an old dog had excellent suspension and torque. They were good for everything apparently, sand, mud, pavement, even, the very oddly specific – limestone.
I’m certain there’s a used car dealership somewhere where Kaipo would fit right in.
Eu sou brasileiro, com muito orgulho, com muito amor, as they say on the terraces and the beaches.
The Brazilian-ification of Jack Robinson leads to stratospheric rise propelling young Australian to possible first world title and fulfillment of heavy childhood destiny!
Aside from never-before-seen growth across all platforms and the poaching of top-level NBA talent, the greatest story of this 2022 World Surf League season, even eclipsing Kelly Slater’s Pipeline win at near 50-years young, is that of Jack Robinson. The Western Australian currently sits at number two in the world, having taken two events already and possibly on the way to fulfilling his childhood destiny.
But imagine being born a prodigy. Being born with the weight of wild expectations on your shoulders. That you would, someday, be The One.
I was never going to be The One unless “The One” refers to a surf journalist who can badger certain folk in the surf industry into eventually responding then writing volumes about that interaction, cornering them with a barrage of dumb so fast and furious that early round knockout becomes all but guaranteed.
15 – 0.
Robinson, though, was it. A talent so prodigious that even the most short-sighted could see his arc. Except the weight of wild exception is heavy and Robinson seemingly faltered, or seemingly faltered until this year. His rocket to the top-adjacent is, again, is the greatest story of the year but to what can it be attributed?
The answer is simple.
Jack Robinson has been Brazil-ified. From marrying into the wonderful heritage to dying his hair blonde to publicly working out on Instagram to Sharp Eye surfboards to surfing with a purpose, back-paddling etc., the Man from Margaret River is now within striking distance of his first world title.
Genius to smell a winner and get onboard. Like Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
David Lee Scales and I, anyhow, talk about that particular genius and other things too. I can’t remember. I’m jet lagged. Enjoy.
Activist struts through New York’s Times Square wearing nothing but pink bikini; uses surfboard as cudgel to bash body-positive message over un-evolved heads!
It ain’t the 1940s anymore, Bub, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock. We live in a brave new world where passive racism, sexism, paternalism are no longer “hip” or “cool” and those who practice such thinkings get deservedly shamed. Very un-chill to believe, for example, that there is one standard for beauty and all people should strive to fit into that cramped box.
To bash this truth over somehow still un-evolved heads, body-positive activist Elizabeth Sneed waltzed into New York’s very crowded Times Square, days ago, wearing only a hot pink bikini and carrying a triple stinger’d longboard to use as weapon of truth and justice. A cudgel of enlightenment, as it were.
Sneed, who creates content under the moniker Curvy Surfer Girl on social media, says, “I want the world to know women with curves are surfers & athletes. What better place than New York City to show the world.”
I am not a massive New York City fan so can think of better places to be but that un-evolved thinking misses the point entirely. Her fans, on Instagram, thrilled at the move, one writing, “My inner little girl is so grateful to you.” And another declaring, “Loving this and what it’s doing for our surf culture.”
It thrilled my inner girl, too, as variety is the spice of life. Lineups choked with middle-aged men, hair medium length, of medium build, wearing black neoprene, riding pointy thrusters so dull.